By THEO YASAUSE
FOR the past five years Bomana Prison has held its own repentance and prayer day. This year the programme was made special with a walk to repentance by all inmates and PNG Correctional Service officers. The glaring point and message is true repentance calls for a change of direction.
Perhaps, the hardest realisation of life is that we all sin or have wrongdoings both outside the prison and inside. But the most difficult problem we all face is what to do about it.
We all fail to acknowledge our wrongdoings and to address it one way or another. The solution is faith in Jesus Christs and repentance. Unfortunately many of us have misconceptions about what it means to repent and continue what is destroying us as a nation and people. But before we go into that let’s see how the day came about in Papua New Guinea.
Origins of day
The Body of Christ and Ministers Fraternal had over the years made several attempts to get a prime minister to declare a National Day of Prayer and Repentance. Several attempts to get to various prime ministers had failed for a number of reasons. First, many advisers had advised against mixing politics and religion. The underlying reasons were not given. But the main argument was about freedom of religion and that to give preference to one religion or church grouping over another could be suicidal for the Government. Secondly, there were not many religious people inside politics advising the Government especially the prime ministers. Many advisors made God small, petty and intolerable.
Politics is said to be a dirty business, but it appears to be getting dirtier by the day in the way decisions are made in the allocation of scarce resources , the who gets what business? That is why many advisers’ were reluctant to allow politics and religion to mix and to have a place to determining how limited resources are allocated.
And there are good reasons to mix politics with religion in Papua New Guinea. The question is what would our society now look like should everyone behave in one direction of change and purpose?
Around about March of 2007 the ministers-pastors fraternal wrote to then Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare as the founding father of the nation to declare Papua New Guinea a Christian nation and call for the people through the country to a day of repentance and prayer. This was to give meaning to the Constitution, the foundation of a Christian nation that testifies and puts God first in its dealings for the good of society. It was a year when corruption had hit new heights and lawlessness was the order of the day.
The same year I (the author) took over as chief of staff in the Prime Minister’s office and received the pastors on behalf of the Prime Minister for a short meeting. The pastors informed me that they wanted the founding father to make a number of things: (1) To make the God of Israel the God of Papua New Guinea; (2) To repent on behalf of the people of the country and seek forgiveness for their sins; (3) dedicate a whole day for reflection of where we as a nation and people both individually and collectively have gone wrong.
It was to be a time for the families to also sit back and assess how they have fared, what went wrong, how to fix what went wrong and plan the next steps going forward in prayer and supplication. And it was for the people to pray for the Government to bring spiritual awakening so that decisions are based on fairness and good governance across the whole of government.
I had listened to the pastors very attentively and my heart was pumping to realisation that I had backslidden and desperately needed to seek God’s forgiveness and directions too. After listening, I informed them that the Prime Minister would be available and they were to confirm the date, time and venue without his agreement.
The Sione Kami Memorial Church was decided as the venue as it can gather for a large congregation. Sir Michael attended the service and made the pronouncements as requested by the pastors. The dates were changed twice but eventually settled at Aug 26 as the National Day of Repentance and Prayer.
The reason for the unilateral decision and advice for the founding Prime Minister Somare to attend and make the declaration are two-fold. First, it was important for godly decisions to be made inside the heart of Government – the Prime Minister’s office so that decisions made are fair, just and equitable. Secondly, a more selfish reason, it was the election year and we needed the support of the churches to amass the support required to win enough members to form government.
The latter although selfish was the reason to eventually convince Sir Michael to attend the service at the Sione Kami United Church to make the declaration for public good and interest. God’s favour was upon Sir Michael and his party won 40 seats and was called upon to form government. Repentance thus brings about positive outcomes and a means of blessing.
Reflection on true repentance
Repentance is very much associated with those of us held inside the prison as many would say. It is true to some extent as our sins were brought to open whilst for many the sins have not been made public. We all have to come to the realisation that we all sin. No amount of time, place and moment can take sin away.
Repentance is a feeling of pain or regret for what one has done or omitted to do. It is a feeling which everyone must experience before improvement takes place.
The thief who feels no shame or sorrow for having stolen, the liar whose lies caused no compunction, will continue in their evil course unless they can be brought to realise how great are the sins they have committed. The drug addict and the alcoholic who cannot provide for his family and think he or she is a person or standing and a hero is a sick person that must re-consider the ways.
To the most hardened offending sinner there may may come moments when conscience awakens the remorse attacks. Christians especially insist on the importance of repentance. The advocacy exhorts sinners to repent of their sins and idiocies and lead the life God teaches them to lead.
Two thieves were crucified at the same time as Christ, the one who repented of his sins, even in the hour of death, was allowed to enter into Paradise with Christ.
True repentance implies not only regret for the pasts, but an earnest desire to do better in the future, and to make amends for the wrong that has been done, however great the cost. It is like the boy that had deceived his master cannot be said to have repented until he has confessed his deceit, and is willing to undergo the punishment of his offence, however severe it may be.
The man who was unfair means he has deprived another of his property or estate, has not truly repented, however bitter his remorse. Until he has restored everything to the rightful owner, he is still a wrong doer.
Repentance of the prodigal son
Repentance is a bigger word than either regret or remorse. Regret is a mild and remorse is deep and bitter sense of sorrow of sin or folly; but repentance is sorrow for sin combined with a sincere desire to forsake it. It involves not only sorrow and shame for ones wrong-doing, but giving it up and trying to live better life.
Christ’s well known parable of the Prodigal Son well illustrates repentance in action. It is a story of a wilful and wrongheaded young man who got money out of his loving father, ran away from home to a far country, and there wasted his substance in riotous living. And when he had spent all, he began to be in want.
The only job he could find was feeding the swine; and he was so hungry that he would like to eat the husks given to the swine. And when he came to himself, he said, how many hired servants of my fathers have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger. I will arise and go to my father, and tell him I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called a son; make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose and came to his father.
There you have all the elements of true repentance. First, he came to himself that is he saw his folly and wrongdoing in the clearer light of truth. This is what religious people call conviction of sin. Next though it is not said in so many words that he was sorry for his sin, sorrow and shame are clearly implied in his words, I have sinned. Then comes confession of sin. I haves sinned against heaven and before thee, and am not more worthy to be called thy son.
Also there is the willingness to accept and bear punishment for his sin. Make me as one of thy hired servants.
Finally and most importantly, there is the giving up, the turning of one’s back on sin and having a new direction by choice. And he arose and came to his father. He returns from the far country of righteous living and goes back to duty and unfailing obedience.
And how is he received? With full and free forgives. His father fell and on his neck kissed him crying in joy. This, my son, was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. Thus, taught Christ, does our Heavenly Father receive every truly penitent sinner who prays to Him for pardon.
The elements necessary for forgiveness are: Conviction of sin, seeing sin and wrong for what they are; sorrow and shame for the wrong done; confession and willingness to bear punishment for sin; and finally not only a sincere desire to forsake sin but resolute turning of one’s back on the old bad life and determination to give a new good life.
- Theo Yasause if a freelance writer and inmate at the Bomana Prison.